thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Keeping Pace with Customers

By on March 3, 2010

“More change will occur in the next thirty years than in the previous three hundred.”  (The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Matt Miller). I’m sure that few of us are surprised by that statement. Still, it is difficult for most organizations to see how these changes and intersecting trends apply to them and the relationships with their customers. Frankly, it’s perplexing to imagine scenarios in which the “extinction rate” of the ideas that made your company successful is accelerating.

Bicyclist_lrgDisruptive innovation (The Innovator's Solution, Christensen and Raynor) is easy to identify in hindsight, but much more challenging when it appears as relatively small changes that surround your organization. All ideas seem to be small ideas when they begin, especially when being accustomed to success lead your company to inertia and perhaps arrogance. The danger, of course, from a supplier's standpoint is that not responding to these changes can cause you to set your expectations too low about what the customer wants. It is easy to think that customers simply want what we have been giving them all along. For valid reasons, psychological research has created the nomenclature “status quo bias” to define the fact that people basically like to leave things the way they are.

There are undoubtedly ideas in the everyday operation of your organization that are trending toward obsolete. They are just hard to see in the present and frankly, it is difficult to “ferret out ingrained assumptions that people never stop to question.” The more we are able to clear out the cobwebs in our minds, the less disruptive the years ahead will be.  Because we are faced with so many more complexities and alternative trends than in the past, the solution must be fact-based to overcome the blind spots. “Success in business ultimately depends on dealing with the facts,” writes Miller.

Make sure that your organization is prepared for change by putting some customer-centered monitors in place that will condition everyone to look for new ways by questioning the old ways. Put your own “GPS” system in place to recognize when a better route is available. Set up a process to pull information from the marketplace and to evaluate change on customers’ terms, not yours. This process is not about gloom and doom. Just the opposite—it will be a great platform to start discussions of ways to strengthen your organization by consistently looking for ways to outperform.

Flexicurity is what Matt Miller calls it (adapted from the buzzword originated in Denmark’s labor market). It is the confidence to search out Dead Ideas that your company is operating under and replace them with dynamic Destined Ideas which will shape a new direction. These ideas have a phenomenally greater chance of survival if they are grounded in what your customers need. So the flexibility of your organization delivers the security for the future. Imagine a delivery model in which your customers never felt they had to sacrifice anything because you were keeping them at the leading edge of new ideas. It's powerful, isn't it?

It is really difficult to gauge the impact of change while it is happening. You are too close to it. Don’t let success lead to arrogance, which holds you back from the willingness to question how long yesterday’s ideas will stay viable. The only remedy is to develop a system to help you be aware of challenges to your current ideas and to allow your organization to be adaptable to its customers.


Leave a Reply

Tell Us How We Can Help
We love to have conversations with individuals who want their organizations to become customer-centered market leaders. Please send us your thoughts and questions.

Customer 3D
120 Allens Creek Road
Rochester, NY 14618
[800] 380-2308

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.